i have adventures (sometimes)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

My Totally Spontaneous Adventure

Ro left for Oxford on Friday morning to present a conference paper about monsters for other smart people, leaving me to work out what to do with my life until we meet up in Cambridge next week. Friday was a spectacularly unproductive day, in which I hid from the rain in an amazing coffee shop all day, ostensibly to work on my NaNo novel from last year, although I ended up planning my weekend trip until Cath joined me, after which we drank coconut lattes and smoothies like richer people than we actually are.

It was probably for the best. My novel's terrible.

The next morning, I set out on my Totally Spontaneous Adventure (which was, to be fair, only partly spontaneous, since I'd spent the previous day planning it). On the advice of the guy at the hostel, my first destination was Stirling, where I went without knowing where I would stay, and without having done any research other than where to catch the coach from. Obviously, this turned out to be the hardest part, and I spent over half an hour wandering sadly around with my very heavy backpack in the rain until I worked out that "opposite Canning Street" could also refer to the road at the other end of Canning Street, and I arrived at the bus stop in time to catch the coach to Stirling.

This is supposed to be tiredness, not mumps, but it'll do.
As I still had nowhere to stay when I got to Stirling, I left my backpack in a locker at the station and went off adventuring, like the Totally Spontaneous Adventurer I am. I found a path around the outside of the Old Town, called the Back Walk, for reasons best known to itself, which took me up to the old kirkyard, the Church of the Holy Rude (where James VI/I was crowned) and Stirling Castle. I kept on following the path, and it took me through a forest and up to Castle Hill, with occasional breaks in the trees for me to see the view. One thing I'll say for Stirling is that the scenery was stunning.

Stage diving is acceptable in this kirkyard.

Well, that looks safe.

Once I'd ticked "see beautiful Scottish scenery" off my to-do list for the day (not that I had a to-do list, because I'm a Totally Spontaneous Adventurer), I was rather at a loss, because I wandered around the town itself, and did so in about an hour. Way to be boring, Stirling. So I spent more money than I could really afford on a smoothie and rum-and-raisin chocolate, and sat down to write postcards and see if anyone had responded to my last-minute CouchSurfing requests.

It was cheaper to buy a broken slab. It also totally doesn't feel like eating a whole slab of chocolate when it's broken, so it doesn't count.

Luckily for me and my budget, a wonderful girl called Laura offered to take me in, and she came to find me at the train station that evening. We spent the evening drinking tea in her very colourful basement flat, and then she took me on a walk up to the castle to see the view by night, which was beautiful. I'm usually scared of the dark, but there's something really comforting about walking in the dark with someone who knows where they're going. I'm sure that's a metaphor for something.

Laura and Amanda.
Stirling wasn't exciting enough to keep me there, and so I set off for the bus station earlyish this morning. The next step in my Totally Spontaneous Adventure was to catch a coach to Inverness (without even a pre-booked ticket! Crazy times!). It was about a four-hour trip, and the coach travelled through scenery so beautiful that the Scottish Highlands now easily rival the Natal Midlands for the title of "best place ever". Lots of mountains and lush grass and dense green forests.

To be honest, between the scenery and the availability of interesting and varied vegan food in the shops, I feel like I could happily live here. It's the first time I've really considered living elsewhere in the long-term. Not that I want to be part of the brain-drain or the mass of whining white emigrants leaving SA, but I really think I'm going to battle to go back home when my degree's over, unless the availability of vegan food improves significantly while I'm away.

But anyway.

Inverness turned out to be even more beautiful than Stirling. Leaving my things at the station again (this time for a heftier fee), as I had nowhere to go and was still hoping for late replies to my CouchSurfing requests, I set out to try and find Wifi so I could send a few more requests and see about finding a cheap way of getting back to Edinburgh on Tuesday.

I forget that cities that aren't Edinburgh or London don't have Wifi everywhere you look. So that didn't work out at all. In the end, I gave up, and just went for a walk along the Ness (River, not Loch) in the on-and-off drizzle, resigned to the fact that my glasses were going to get covered with rain and there would be nothing I could do about it. But vision's overrated anyway.

As it got later, I realised that I'd have to sleep somewhere, and so I went to the hostel I'd looked up in advance as part of my Totally Spontaneous Adventure Plan, arriving very bedraggled, which at least made me less reluctant to shell out 15 quid for a bed.

For supper, I feasted on porridge, because I'm a poor student, and then sat down to blog (the things I do for you, dear reader). I was half-way through this entry when I got chatting to a stranger. In fact, that deserves its own paragraph.

I talked to a stranger. To a stranger.

To be fair, he initiated conversation, but it still counts. Anyway, we found out that we're both starting our master's (master'ses? surely not) at York this October, and to top it off, we're staying in the same block of the same college. He's from Norway and studying human rights law, and so far he doesn't seem to be a murderer, which is a quality I really appreciate in people I meet. We're off to Loch Ness tomorrow, because I am determined to find evidence for Sea Monster Theory (I haven't told him this part - I've heard that syntax isn't a good topic of conversation when you want to win friends and influence people, although I can't imagine why not).

Spontaneous travel, talking to strangers, and making new friends? Next thing you know, I'll be dancing on bars.


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